I guide a course on Memrise: http://www.memrise.com/course/43618/further-intermediate-french/. There I try to make all my substantives indefinite, because that's the best way to learn the gender of a word. However with some words, I 've never heard nor seen an indefinite form. Examples of this are:

Countries like la France, la Belgique, L'Australie ...

Sports like: le foot, le tennis de table ...

"liquid" objects like: l'eau, le sable, l'huile ... ...

  1. Do some of these have an indefinite form, if so, which?
  2. What are the rules about those things?

I asked this to make my course consistent. If all articles are consistenly indefinite (un, une) people know they always need to use this form (however the definite form is also accepted as an answer)

  • Without explaining why you're asking it, your question is interesting on its own, imo, but since you did give that explanation, for your purposes wouldn't this only be an issue w/nouns beginning w/vowels/silent consonants, where the gender is "hidden" by " l' " (like your examples "l'eau" & "l'huile")? I don't understand why being able to present learners with "Une France" makes it easier for them to learn its gender than presenting them with "La France" would (after teaching them that "La"=feminine). Or maybe I just don't understand what you mean by "definite" & "indefinite" forms.
    – Papa Poule
    Commented Jan 15, 2017 at 19:38
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    @PapaPoule The problem is indeed that l' doesn't give a gender indication. Commented Jan 15, 2017 at 19:55
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    @Gilles I tried to grant that point in my comment (with "for your purposes wouldn't this only be an issue w/nouns beginning w/vowels/silent consonants, where the gender is "hidden" by l' "), but I'm still not clear on why the question (and the OP's problem as a guide/instructor) extends beyond nouns where l' is used and why nouns where "le" and "la" are fully spelled-out pose problems for gender determination/learning.
    – Papa Poule
    Commented Jan 15, 2017 at 20:13
  • "When water is added to an oil, they will not mix"
    – Mawg
    Commented Jan 16, 2017 at 13:10

1 Answer 1


It's possible to use all of these with indefinite articles. But it's so uncommon, that it would only confuse learners. Choose a different way to provide the gender in these cases. Possibly definite articles or adjectives.

Here are examples using indefinite articles for those nouns:

  • Je préfère une France réactive.

  • Ils pratiquent un football de qualité.

  • C'est une eau riche en minéraux.


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    I often find that language like you provided is heavily used in advertising, and sometimes radio (podcasts and the like). Commented Jan 15, 2017 at 23:51
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    Note that when we use the definite article, we mean the general concept (la France is the country, le football is the sport, l'eau is the liquid), but when we use the indefinite article, we mean a specific vision or instance of it (une France may be a subset of the country, or a possible futur for it, un football is about how specific people play/think about the sport, une eau is often about a specific brand or source of water). Commented Jan 16, 2017 at 10:41

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